Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 10: Palenque to Flores

We found the best way to get from Palenque to Flores, Guatemala was via bus-boat-bus. We began our by getting a shuttle outside El Panchan at 6am (it was half an hour late). A shuttle bus finally picked us up and drove us to the Mexican immigration office at Frontera Corozal. This took us approximately 4h which included a ridiculously pricey (70 pesos)  30min breakfast stop along the way… just bring food.

We went with Kichen Bajlum travel agency which cost 350 pesos pp.  We also had to pay the driver 15 pesos each to leave Mexico (nobody told us this). We were “dumped” at border control, got our passports stamped and wandered over to the boats which were 200m away. We waited a while to get on the boat for another 5 people to join us; 4 of these people ending up being our travel buddies for 2 days. The 20min boat ride across the Rio Usumacinta was incredibly cool! Nothing more than a big canoe with a motor powered by a teenager. We saw indigenous Mayans washing their clothes in the river and children swimming and playing. 
Indigenous Mayans washing their clothes in the river
View from the roof terrace at Mirando del Lago
When we got off the boat and we filled our tourist immigration form for Guatemala (90 days permitted stay) while we waited another 30mins for our second (rickety) bus to arrive. We took a 3km ride to the Guatemalan immigration office and paid the $US5 entrance fee into Guatemala (make sure to keep the immigration form safe with your passport for exiting the country!) and then it was back on the bus for an extremely bumpy 3h journey on the dustiest road I have ever seen! This was followed by a 1h drive on a (thankfully) paved road to Flores. We arrived around 2.30pm (local time -7GMT). Flores is small town located on a peninsula of the beautiful lake, Lago Peten Itza. We were convinced by a tour guide to stay in Hotel Mirador del Lago which was a nice hotel with balconies overlooking the lake. It was 90 Quetzales per room per night for a double bed with private bathroom.
Enjoying tacos by the lake side
Flores is a lovely town with small, friendly restaurants and the majority are along the lake side, which is beautiful on a clear evening at sunset. Many people swim in the lake though the water was a bit brownish when we were there and had a mild taste of gasoline. There is only one (unreliable?) cash machine on the peninsula but there are more in the town of Santa Elena is a 10 min walk away over the bridge. Santa Elena is also good for stocking up on food and water; there is a supermarket just before the bridge. Flores was a particularly nice during the evenings to take a stroll where there were food stalls by the lake side selling delicious yet cheap traditional Guatemalan food and desserts (try the fried banana!). We got chatting to several Guatemalans at the market just to practice our Spanish and they were all o chatty and friendly it was very refreshing not to have people trying to sell stuff to us.
Beautiful sunset over Lago Peten Itza

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